If you have students with special needs in your nonpublic school, you may be eligible for consultation or professional development under IDEA/Equitable Participation funding. Contact Nicole Borland for details. To request IDEA Services, please click HERE
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The public school districts of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and the Bucks County Intermediate Unit (“the Bucks County school entities”), provide special education and related service to resident children with disabilities who are ages three through twenty-one. The purpose of this notice is to describe (1) the types of disabilities that might qualify the child for such programs and services, (2) the special education programs and related services that are available, (3) the process by which each of the Bucks County School entities screens and evaluates such students to determine eligibility, and (4) the special rights that pertain to such children and their parents or legal guardians.
What types of disability might qualify a child for special education and related services?
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, commonly referred to as the “IDEA,” children qualify for special education and related services if they have one or more of the following disabilities and, as a result, demonstrate a need for special education and related services: (1) mental retardation, (2) hearing impairments, including deafness, (3) speech or language impairments, (4) visual impairments, including blindness, (5) serious emotional disturbance, (6) orthopedic impairments, (7) autism, including pervasive developmental disorders; (8) traumatic brain injury, (9) other health impairment, (10) specific learning disabilities, (11) multiple disabilities, or (12) for preschool age children, developmental delays. If a child has more than one of the above-mentioned disabilities, the child could qualify for special education and related services as having multiple disabilities. Children age three through the age of admission to first grade are also eligible if they have developmental delays and, as a result, need special education and related services. Developmental delay is defined as a child who is less than the age of beginners and at least 3 years of age is considered to have a developmental delay when one of the following exists: (i) The child’s score, on a developmental assessment device, on an assessment instrument which yields a score in months, indicates that the child is delayed by 25% of the child’s chronological age in one or more developmental areas. (ii) The child is delayed in one or more of the developmental areas, as documented by test performance of 1.5 standard deviations below the mean on standarized tests. Developmental areas include cognitive, communicative, physical, social/emotional and self-help.
The legal definitions of these disabilities, which the public schools are required to apply under the IDEA, may differ from those used in medical or clinical practice. Moreover, the IDEA definitions could apply to children with disabilities that have very different medical or clinical disorders. A child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, for example, could qualify for special education and related services as a child with “other health impairments,” “serious emotional disturbance,” or “specific learning disabilities” if the child meets the eligibility criteria under one or more of these disability categories and if the child needs special education and related services as a result.
Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, some school age children with disabilities who do not meet the eligibility criteria under the IDEA might nevertheless be eligible for special protections and for adaptations and accommodations in instruction, facilities, and activities. Children are entitled to such protections, adaptations, and accommodations if they have a mental or physical disability that substantially limits or prohibits participation in or access to an aspect of the school program.
What programs and services are available for children with disabilities?
The public school must ensure that children with disabilities are educated to the maximum extent appropriate with their non-disabled peers, commonly referred to as the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). Programs and services available to students with disabilities, in descending order of preference, are (1) regular class placement with supplementary aides and services provided as needed in that environment, (2) regular class placement for most of the school day with itinerant service by a special education teacher either in or out of the regular classroom, (3) regular class placement for most of the school day with instruction provided by a special education teacher in a resource classroom, (4) part time special education class placement in a regular public school or alternative setting, and (5) special education class placement or special education services provided outside the regular class for most or all of the school day, either in a regular public school or alternative setting.
Depending on the nature and severity of the disability, a Bucks County School entity can provide special education programs and services in (1) the public school the child would attend if not disabled, (2) an alternative regular public school either in or outside the school district of residence, (3) a special education center operated by a public school entity, (4) an approved private school or other private facility licensed to serve children with disabilities, (5) a residential school, (6) approved out-of-state program, or (7) the home.
Special education services are provided according to the primary educational needs of the child, not the category of disability. The types of service available are (1) learning support, for students who primarily need assistance with the acquisition of academic skills, (2) life skills support, for students who primarily need assistance with development of skills for independent living, (3) emotional support, for students who primarily need assistance with social or emotional development, (4) deaf or hearing impaired support, for students who primarily need assistance with deafness, (5) blind or visually impaired support, for students who primarily need assistance with blindness, (6) physical support, for students who primarily require physical assistance in the learning environment, (7) autistic support, for students who primarily need assistance in the areas affected by autism spectrum disorders, and (8) multiple disabilities support, for students with more than one disability the result of which is severe impairment requiring services primarily in the areas of academic, functional, vocational skills necessary for independent living.
Related services are designed to enable the child to participate in or access his or her program of special education. Examples of related services are speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing services, audiologist services, counseling, and family training.
Children of preschool age are served by the Bucks County Intermediate Unit in a variety of home and school-based settings that take into account the chronological and developmental age and primary needs of the child. As with school age programs, preschool programs must ensure that to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are educated with non-disabled peers.
Each Bucks County School entity, in conjunction with the parents of each identified child, determines the type and intensity of special education and related services that a particular child needs based exclusively on the unique program of special education and related services that the school develops for that child. The child’s program is described in writing in an individualized education program, commonly referred to as an “IEP,” which is developed by an IEP team consisting of educators, parents, and other persons with special expertise or familiarity the child. The parents of the child have the right to be notified of and to participate in all meetings of their child’s IEP team. The IEP is revised as often as circumstances warrant but at least annually. The law requires that the program and placement of the child, as described in the IEP, be reasonably calculated to ensure meaningful educational progress to the student at all times. IEPs contain, at a minimum, the projected start date and duration for the IEP, a statement of the child’s present levels of educational and functional performance, an enumeration of annual goals, a description of the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals will be measured and reported, a statement of the special education, program modifications, and related services to be provided, an explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with non-disabled children, the anticipated frequency and location of the services and a statement of any accommodations necessary to measure academic achievement and functional performance of the child on state and district wide assessments. For children aged fourteen and older, the IEP must also include a transition plan to assist in the attainment of post-secondary objectives. The public school must invite the child to the IEP team meeting if a purpose of the meeting will be the consideration of the post-secondary goals and transition services needed for the child.
All Bucks County School entities are required to allow parents of children with disabilities reasonable access to their child’s classrooms, subject to the provisions of each entity’s school visitation policy or guidelines.
How do the public schools screen and evaluate children to determine eligibility for special education and related services?
Multidisciplinary team evaluation
Bucks County School entities must conduct a multidisciplinary team evaluation of every child who is thought to have a disability. The multidisciplinary team is a group of professionals who are trained in and experienced with the testing, assessment, and observation of children to determine whether they have disabilities and, if so, to identify their primary educational strengths and needs. Parents are members of the multidisciplinary team. Bucks County School entities must reevaluate school-age students receiving special education services every three years and must reevaluate children with mental retardation and pre-school-age children receiving special education services every two years.
Parents may request a multidisciplinary team evaluation of their children at any time. They must do so in writing. Every public school has a procedure in place by which parents can request an evaluation. For information about each Bucks County School entity’s procedures applicable to your child, contact the school district, which your child attends. Telephone numbers and addresses for the school districts can be found at the end of this notice. Parents of preschool age children, age three through five, may request an evaluation in writing by addressing a letter as follows: Bucks County Intermediate Unit, Early Childhood Services, 705 N. Shady Retreat Road, Doylestown, PA 18901. The telephone number for the Early Intervention Program is (215)-348-2940, ext 1716. You may call that number to schedule a screening appointment for your preschool age child.
Parents of children in private schools may request a multidisciplinary team evaluation of their children without enrolling in their public schools. However, while some services might be available to some private school children who are found eligible by the responsible Bucks County School entity, that entity is not required to provide all or any of the special education and related services those children would receive if enrolled in the public schools. If, after an evaluation, the multidisciplinary team determines that the child is eligible for special education and related services, the responsible Bucks County School entity must offer the child a Free Appropriate Public Educations (FAPE), unless the parents of the child are not interested in such an offer. If parents wish to take advantage of such an offer, they may be required to enroll or re-enroll their child in the responsible Bucks County School entity to do so.
Before a Bucks County School entity can proceed with an evaluation, it must notify the parents in writing of the specific types of testing and assessment it proposes to conduct, of the date and time of the evaluation, and of the parents’ rights. The evaluation cannot begin until the parent has signed the written notice indicating that he or she consents to the proposed testing and assessments and has returned the notice to the public school.
All Bucks County School entities undertake screening activities before referring students for a multidisciplinary team evaluation. Screening activities could involve an instructional support team, commonly referred to as the “IST,” or an alternative screening process. Regardless of the particular screening method employed, the screening process must include (1) periodic vision and hearing assessments by the school nurse as mandated by the School Code and (2) screening at reasonable intervals to determine whether all students are performing based on grade-appropriate standards in core academic subjects.
If early intervening activities produce little or no improvement, the child will then be referred for a multidisciplinary team evaluation.
For information about the dates of various screening activities in your child’s school or to request screening activities for a particular child, contact the local public school directly. Telephone numbers and addresses for the school districts can be found at the end of this notice. Parents of preschool age children, age three through five, may obtain information about screening activities, or may request a screening of their children, by calling or writing the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, Early Childhood Services, 705 N. Shady Retreat Road, Doylestown, PA 18901. The telephone number for the Early Childhood Program is (215) 348-2940, ext 1716.
Private school administrators, teachers, and parent groups, or individual parents of students in private schools who are interested in establishing systems in those schools for locating and identifying children with disabilities who might need a multidisciplinary team evaluation may contact the Ms. Diane Paul at Bucks County Intermediate Unit, 705 N. Shady Retreat Road, Doylestown, PA 18901; telephone number (215) 348-2940.
What special rights and protections do children with disabilities and their parents have?
State and federal law affords many rights and protections to children with disabilities and their parents. A summary of those rights and protections follows. Interested persons may obtain a complete written summary of the rights and protections afforded by the law, together with information about free or low cost legal services and advice, by contacting their school district’s special education or student services department. Telephone numbers and addresses for the school districts can be found at the end of this notice. The written summary is also available through the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, Early Childhood Services, 705 N. Shady Retreat Road, Doylestown, PA 18901; telephone number (215) 348-2940.
Rights and Protections
Prior Written Notice. The responsible Bucks County School entity must notify you in writing whenever it proposes to initiate or to change the identification, evaluation, educational program or placement of a child or whenever it refuses to initiate or make a change in the identification, evaluation, educational program or placement requested by a parent. Such notice must be accompanied by a written description of the action proposed or rejected, the reasons for the proposal or refusal, a description of the evaluation information and other relevant factors used as a basis for the decision, the other options considered, if any, the reasons why such options were rejected and a statement that the parent has the right to procedural safeguards.
Consent. Bucks County School entities cannot proceed with an evaluation or reevaluation, or with the initial provision of special education and related services, without the written consent of the parents. However, a Bucks County School entity may seek approval for an initial evaluation or reevaluation by requesting the approval of an impartial hearing officer by filing a due process request. Additionally, in the case of a parent’s failure to respond to a request to conduct a reevaluation, a Bucks County School entity may proceed with the proposed reevaluation without parental consent if it can show that it made a reasonable effort to obtain parental consent and that the parent failed to respond. A public school entity may not seek a hearing to nullify the refusal of a parent to consent to an initial placement in special education.
Protection in Evaluation Procedures. Evaluations to determine eligibility and the current need for special education and related services must be administered in a manner that is free of racial, cultural, or linguistic bias and in the native language of the child. The evaluation must assess the child in all areas related to the suspected disability and include a variety of technically sound instruments, assessment tools and strategies. The assessments and evaluation materials must be used for the purposes for which the assessments or measure are valid and reliable. They must be administered by trained and knowledgeable personnel in accordance with any instructions provided by the producer of the assessment and must be trained to assess special areas of need. Moreover, evaluation determinations cannot be based upon any single measure or assessment.
Independent Educational Evaluation. If parents disagree with the evaluation conducted by the responsible Bucks County School entity, they may request in writing an independent educational evaluation, commonly referred as an “IEE,” at public expense. If an IEE is provided at public expense, the criteria under which the IEE is privately obtained must be the same as the criteria that the responsible Bucks County School entity uses when it initiates an evaluation. Information concerning each school entity’s evaluation criteria can be obtained through the Office of Special Education or Student Services of that entity. If the Bucks County School entity refuses to pay for the IEE, it must provide legal notice of its decision, including the reason for its denial.
Due Process Hearing Procedures
The parent or the responsible Bucks County school entity, commonly referred to as the Local Educational Agency (LEA), may request a due process hearing with respect to any matter relating to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child or the provision of a free appropriate public education, commonly referred to as “FAPE”. The party requesting the hearing must submit a “Due Process Hearing Request” form to the Office for Dispute Resolution, 6340 Flank Drive, Suite 600, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17112; telephone (800) 222-3353; TTY (800) 654-5984. A due process hearing will not proceed until all required information is provided and procedures followed.
Timeline for requesting Due Process. The parent or LEA must request a due process hearing by filing a Due Process Hearing Request within two (2) years of the date to parent or the LEA knew or should have known about the alleged action that forms the basis of the request. There are limited exceptions to this timeline. This timeline will not apply if the parent was prevented from filing a Due Process Hearing Request due to either (1) specific misrepresentations by the LEA that it had resolved the problem forming the basis of the hearing request, or (2) the LEA’s withholding of information from the parent that the LEA was required provide.
Filing and Service of the Due Process Hearing Request. The party requesting the hearing must send a copy of the Due Process Hearing Request to the other party and, at the same time, to the Office for Dispute Resolution by mail addressed to the Office for Dispute Resolution, 6340 Flank Drive, Suite 600, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17112, or by electronic mail addressed to ODR.pattan.net, or by facsimile at (717) 657-5983.
Contents of Due Process Hearing Request. The Due Process Hearing Request must contain the following information:
1. The name of the child, the address where the child lives, and the name of the school the child is attending or, if the child is homeless, available contact information for the child and the name of the school the child is attending;
2. A description of the nature of the problem, including facts relating to such problem; and
3. A proposed resolution of the problem to the extent known and available to the party filing the Due Process Hearing Request.
Challenging Sufficiency of the Due Process Hearing Request. The Due Process Hearing Request will be considered to be sufficient unless the party receiving it notifies the Hearing Officer and the other party in writing within fifteen (15) days of receipt that the receiving party believes the Request does not meet the requirements listed above.
Response to Request. If the LEA has not sent a prior written notice, such as a Notice of Recommended Educational Placement, commonly referred to as a “NOREP”, to the parent regarding the subject matter contained in the parent's Due Process Hearing Request, the LEA must send to the parent, within ten (10) days of receiving the Due Process Hearing Request, a response including the following Information: (1) an explanation of why the LEA proposed or refused to take the action raised in the Hearing Request, (2) a description of other options the Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) Team considered, if any, (3) and the reasons why those options were rejected, (4) a description of each evaluation procedure, assessment, record, or report the LEA used as the basis for the proposed or refused action and (5) a description of the factors that are relevant to the proposal or refusal. Filing this response to the parent's Due Process Hearing Request does not prevent the LEA from challenging the sufficiency of the Due Process Hearing Request. If it is the parent receiving the Due Process Hearing Request, then a response to the Due Process Hearing Request must be sent to the other side within ten (10) days of receipt of the request. The response should specifically address the issues raised in the Due Process Hearing Request.
Hearing Officer Determination of Sufficiency of the Due Process Hearing Request. Within five (5) days of receiving a party's challenge to the sufficiency of the Due Process Hearing Request, the Hearing Officer must make a determination based solely on the information contained within the Request whether the Request meets content requirements listed above. The Hearing Officer must immediately notify both parties in writing of his or her determination.
Subject Matter of the Hearing. The party requesting the due process hearing is not permitted to raise issues at the due process hearing that were not raised in the Due Process Hearing Request (or Amended Due Process Hearing Request) unless the other party agrees otherwise.
Resolution Session. Before a due process hearing can take place, the LEA must convene a preliminary meeting with the parent and the relevant member or members of the IEP Team who have specific knowledge of the facts identified in the Due Process Hearing Request in an attempt to resolve those issues without the need to proceed to a due process hearing. This meeting must be held unless the parent and the LEA agree, in writing, to waive this meeting, or agree to use the mediation process. This preliminary meeting must be convened within fifteen (15) days of the receipt of the Due Process Hearing Request. A representative of the LEA who has decision-making authority must be present at this meeting. The LEA may not have an attorney attend the meeting, unless, the parent is also accompanied by an attorney. Parent advocates may attend the meeting. At the meeting, the parent will discuss the Due Process Hearing Request, and the LEA will be provided the opportunity to resolve the Due Process Hearing Request or agree to use the mediation process. If the parent and LEA resolve the issues in the Due Process Hearing Request at the preliminary meeting, they must put the agreement terms in writing, and both the parent and a representative of the LEA who has the authority to bind the LEA must sign the agreement. The agreement is a legally binding document and may be enforced by a court. Either the parent or LEA may void the agreement within three (3) business days of the date of the agreement. After three (3) business days, the agreement is binding on both parties.
Amended Due Process Hearing Request. Either the parent or a LEA may amend its Due Process Hearing Request only if the other party consents in writing to the amendment and is given the opportunity to resolve the issues raised in the Due Process Hearing Request through a resolution session, or the Hearing Officer grants permission for the party to amend the Due Process Hearing Request. However, the Hearing Officer may grant this permission not later than five (5) days before a due process hearing occurs.
Timeline for Completion of Due Process Hearing. If the LEA has not resolved the Due Process Hearing Request within thirty (30) days of receiving it, or within thirty (30) days of receiving the Amended Due Process Hearing Request the due process hearing may proceed and applicable timelines commence. The timeline for completion of due process hearings is forty-five (45) days, unless the Hearing Officer grants specific extensions of time at the request of either party.
Disclosure of Evaluations and Recommendations. Not less than five (5) business days prior to a due process hearing, each party must disclose to all other parties all evaluations completed by that date, and recommendations based on the offering party's evaluations that the party intends to use at the due process hearing. Failure to disclose this information may result in a Hearing Officer prohibiting the party from introducing the information at the hearing unless the other party consents to its introduction.
Due Process Hearing Rights. The hearing for a child with a disability or thought to have a disability must be conducted and held in the LEA at a place and time reasonably convenient to the parent and child involved. The hearing must be an oral, personal hearing and must be closed to the public unless the parent requests an open hearing. If the hearing is open, the decision issued in the case, and only the decision, will be available to the public. If the hearing is closed, the decision will be treated as a record of the child and may not be available to the public. The decision of the Hearing Officer must include findings of fact, discussion, and conclusions of law. Although technical rules of evidence will not be followed, the decision must be based upon substantial evidence presented at the hearing. A written or, at the option of the parent, electronic verbatim record of the hearing will be provided to the parent at no cost. Parents may be represented by legal counsel and accompanied and advised by individuals with special knowledge or training with respect to the problems of children with disabilities. Parents or parent representatives must be given access to educational records, including any tests or reports upon which the proposed action is based. A party has the right to compel the attendance of and question witnesses who may have evidence upon which the proposed action might be based. A party has the right to present evidence and confront and cross-exam witnesses. A party has the right to present evidence and testimony, including expert medical, psychological, or educational testimony.
Decision of Hearing Officer. A decision made by a Hearing Officer must be made on substantive grounds, based upon a determination of whether the child received a FAPE. In disputes alleging procedural violations, a Hearing Officer may award remedies only if the procedural inadequacies impeded the child’s right to a FAPE; significantly impeded the parents opportunity to participate in the decision-making process regarding the provision of a FAPE to the child; or caused a deprivation of educational benefits. A Hearing Officer may still order the LEA to comply with procedural requirements even if the Hearing Officer determines that the child received a FAPE. The parent may still file a Complaint with the Bureau of Special Education within the Pennsylvania Department of Education regarding procedural violations.
Civil Action. A party that disagrees with the findings and decision of the Hearing Officer has the right to file an appeal in state or federal court. In notifying the parties of the decision, the Hearing officer shall indicate the courts to which an appeal may be taken. The party filing an appeal is encouraged to seek legal counsel to determine the appropriate court with which to file an appeal. A party filing an appeal to state or federal court has ninety (90) days from the date of the decision to do so.
Attorney’s Fees. A court, in its discretion, may award reasonable attorney’s fees to the parent of a child who is a prevailing party or to a State Educational Agency or LEA against the attorney of the parent who files a Due Process Hearing Request or subsequent cause of action that is frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation, or against the attorney of the parent who continued to litigate after the litigation clearly became frivolous, unreasonable or without foundation; or to a prevailing State Educational Agency or LEA against the attorney of the parent, or against the parent, if the parent's Due Process Hearing Request or subsequent cause of action was presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, to cause unnecessary delay, or to needlessly increase the cost of litigation. Fees awarded will be based on rates prevailing in the community in which the action or proceeding arose for the kind and quantity of attorney services furnished.
The federal law imposes certain requirements upon the parent and LEA and in some circumstances may limit attorney fee awards. Parents should consult with their legal counsel regarding these matters. The following rules apply: Attorney’s fees may not be awarded and related costs may not be reimbursed in any action or proceeding for services performed subsequent to the time of a written offer of settlement to the parent if the offer is made within the time prescribed by Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures, or, in the case of an administrative hearing, at any time more than ten (10) days before the proceeding begins; the offer is not accepted within ten (10) days; and the court finds that the relief finally obtained by the parent is not more favorable to the parent than the offer of settlement. Attorney’s fees may not be awarded for time spent attending any meeting of the IEP team unless the meeting is convened as a result of an administrative proceeding or judicial action. A due process resolution session is not considered to be a meeting convened as a result of an administrative hearing or judicial action, nor an administrative hearing or judicial action for purposes of reimbursing attorney’s fees. The Court may reduce the amount of any attorney’s fee award when: (a) the parent, or the parent's attorney, during the course of the action or proceeding unreasonably protracted the final resolution of the controversy; (b) the amount of the attorney’s fees otherwise authorized to be awarded unreasonably exceeds the hourly rate prevailing in the community for similar services by attorneys of reasonably comparable skill, reputation, and experience; (c) the time spent and legal services furnished were excessive considering the nature of the action or proceeding; or (d) the attorney representing the parent did not provide to LEA the appropriate information in the Due Process Hearing Request. These reductions do not apply in any action or proceeding if the court finds that the State or LEA unreasonably protracted the final resolution of the action or proceeding.
Child's Status During Administrative Proceedings. Except for discipline cases, which have specific rules, while the due process case, including appeal to a court of competent jurisdiction, is pending, the child must remain in his or her present educational placement unless the parent and LEA or State agree otherwise. If the due process hearing involves an application for initial admission to public school, the child, with parental consent, must be placed in the public school program until completion of all the proceedings, unless the parent and LEA agree otherwise.
Private School Tuition Reimbursement. In some cases, parents of children who were identified by the public school as eligible for special education and related services and who received such services can recover in a due process hearing or from a court an award of private school tuition reimbursement. Parents can also receive such awards if their child was in need of special education and related services but were not offered such services in a timely manner. To obtain an award of tuition reimbursement, parents must notify their public school of their intent to enroll their child in a private school either verbally at the last IEP team meeting prior to withdrawing their child or in writing received by the public school at least ten days prior to the date on which the child is withdrawn from public school. Parents can obtain tuition only when they can prove at a special education due process hearing that (1) the public school failed to offer an appropriate program or placement to the child, (2) the parents therefore placed their child in a private school, and (3) the private school placement was proper. Tuition reimbursement awards can be denied or reduced if the parent’ s behavior was improper or if the parents delay unreasonably in asserting a claim against the public school in a due process hearing. Such awards can also be denied or reduced if the parents fail to do one of the following: (1) notify the public school of their intent to place the child in a private school at the last IEP team meeting prior to the planned placement or (2) notify the public school in writing of their intent to place the student in a private school at least ten days before withdrawing the student for that purpose.
Mediation. Parties may agree to submit their dispute to the mediation process by requesting mediation from the Office for Dispute Resolution. Mediation may be requested in place of or in addition to a due process hearing. If a hearing is also requested, mediation cannot delay the scheduling of the due process hearing, unless the Hearing Officer grants a continuance for that purpose at the request of a party. An impartial, trained mediator facilitates the mediation process, which is scheduled at a time and location convenient to the parties. The parties are not permitted to have attorneys participate in the process. Any resolution reached through mediation must be reduced to writing, which will be binding on the parties.
Rights under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. As noted above, some students with disabilities who are not in need of special education and related services are nevertheless entitled to adaptations and accommodations in their school program or in the physical environment of school buildings, grounds, vehicles, and equipment, when such adaptations or accommodations are required to enable the student to access and participate meaningfully in educational programming and extracurricular activities. Parents are entitled to a written description of the adaptations and accommodations that the public school is willing to offer. This written description is called a “service agreement” or “accommodation plan.” The rights and protections described above under the headings “Notice,” “Consent,” “Protection in Evaluation Procedures,” and “Maintenance of Placement” apply to students receiving adaptations and accommodations under Section 504. Parents who have complaints concerning the evaluation, program, placement, or provision of services to a student may request either an informal conference with the public school or a due process hearing. The hearing must be held before an impartial hearing officer at a time and location convenient to the parents. Parents have the right to request a free written or electronic transcript or recording of the proceedings, to present evidence and witnesses disclosed to the public school, to confront evidence and testimony presented by the public school, to review their child’s complete educational record on request before the hearing, to receive a written decision from the hearing officer, and to be represented by counsel or an advocate of their choice. An appeal may be taken from the decision of the hearing officer to a court of competent jurisdiction.
Compliance Complaints. In addition to the above hearing rights, parents and others with complaints concerning the education of a child with disabilities or violations of rights guaranteed by either the IDEA or Section 504 may file complaints with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which must investigate such complaints and issue written findings and conclusions. Information concerning such complaints can be obtained at the following address:
Pennsylvania Department of Education
Bureau of Special Education
Division of Compliance Monitoring and Planning
333 Market Street, 7th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333
Notice of Services for Gifted Students
While “gifted” is not one of the “disabilities” required under the Federal IDEA legislation, the State Board of Education’s regulations as set forth in 22 Pa. Code Chapter 16 – Special Education for Gifted Students, provides recognition that gifted students are considered to be “children with exceptionalities” under the Public School Code of 1949 and are in need of special designed instruction.
What is the school district’s responsibility for identifying children of school age who have gifted abilities?
A district shall conduct public awareness activities to inform the public of gifted education services and programs and the manner by which to request these services and programs. These awareness activities shall be designed to reach parents of students enrolled in the public schools.
(22 Pa. Code§ 16.21(b))
How do the public schools screen and evaluate children to determine eligibility for gifted education and services?
Chapter 16 requires that “Each school district shall adopt and use a system to locate and identify all students within the district who are thought to be gifted and in need of specially designed instruction.”
“Each school district shall determine the student’s needs through a screening and evaluation process which meets the requirements of this chapter.”(22 Pa. Code § 1621(a)(c))
Screening is a two-step process. The first step is a systematic “first look” at all students and the second step is a more intense review of potentially gifted students. The screening procedures should generate data from a variety of sources, which should be, compared to a predetermined multiple criteria for gifted potential/performance. Students who are thought to be gifted should be referred for a Gifted Multidisciplinary Evaluation that would include an IQ test.
Gifted Multidisciplinary Evaluation:
For students who are potentially gifted students, the district should perform the following steps:
• Conduct the Gifted Multidisciplinary Evaluation
• Compile a Gifted Written Report
• Convene a Gifted Individualized Education program team meeting to determine whether the student is gifted; and,
• Develop a Gifted Individualized Education program if the student is a gifted student.
Parents may, in writing, request a Gifted Multidisciplinary Evaluation (GMDE) once per school year. When a parent’s request for a GMDE is received by the school district, the evaluation must be completed with regulatory timelines. The timeline begins from the date the school district receives the signed Permission to Evaluate from the parent. If a parent makes a verbal request for an evaluation, the school district must tell parents to put their request in writing and must provide a form for that purpose.
The process shall include information from the parent or others who interact with the student on a regular basis and may include information from the student
The process may not use one test or type of test, as the sole criterion for determining that a student is/is not exceptional.
The process may not use intelligence test yielding an IQ score as the only measure of aptitude for students of limited English proficiency, or for students of racial, linguistic or ethnic minority background.
Test and similar evaluation materials that are used to determine giftedness must be:
• Selected and administered in a manner that is free from racial and cultural bias and bias based on disability,
• Selected and administered so that test results accurately reflect the student’s aptitude, achievement level or whatever other factors the test purports to measure,
• Professionally validated for the specific purpose for which they are used,
• Administered by certified school psychologist under instructions provided by the producer of the tests and sound professional practice,
• Selected and administered to assess specific areas of educational need and ability and not merely a single general IQ.
(22 Pa. Code§ 16.22(g)(3)(i),(ii),(iii),(iv), and (v))
Parents, at their own expense, may obtain an independent evaluation by a certified school psychologist. The school district is required to consider this information when making decisions regarding student identification. (22 Pa. Code § 16.61(e)(3))
If a student is both gifted and eligible for special education, the procedures in Chapter 14 shall take precedence. For these students identified with dual exceptionalities, the needs established under the gifted status must be fully addressed in the procedures required in Chapter 14. ( 22 Pa. Code § 16.7(b))
For students who are gifted and eligible for special education, it is not necessary for school districts to conduct separate screening and evaluations, develop separate IEPs, or use separate procedural safeguards processes to provide for a student’s needs as both a gifted and eligible student. (22 Pa. Code § 16.7(c))
Gifted Written Report (GWR)
The Gifted Multidisciplinary Team must prepare a written report that brings together the information and findings from the evaluation or reevaluation concerning the student’s educational needs and strengths. The report must make recommendations as to whether the student is gifted and in need of specially designed instruction, must indicate the basis for those recommendations, and must indicate the names and positions of the members of the team. (22 Pa. Code§16.22 (h))
Gifted Individual Education Program (GIEP)
A Gifted Individual Education Program is a written plan describing the education to be provided to a gifted student. The initial plan shall be based on and responsive to the results of the evaluation and shall be developed and implemented in accordance with Chapter 16. (22 Pa. Code § 16.31 (a))
The Gifted IEP should reflect the needs of the student. The needs of the culturally diverse, disadvantaged, underachieving, female, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities who may also be gifted may require different assessment and attention to their multiple special needs in the development of the GIEP. There should be a description of the student’s present educational levels and other information necessary to develop appropriate goals and outcomes by subject area to provide acceleration, enrichment, or both as needed. The student’s placement must provide an instructional environment that can meet the accelerated learning needs and enrichment needs of the gifted student and must be documented in the GIEP.
The writing of the GIEP is a duty of the school district. To foster discussion and understanding, school districts are encouraged to compose GIEPs that are understandable to educators who will be delivering the GIEP, to parents to ensure the student’s active participation and understanding of the gifted education program that will be delivered and, where appropriate, to the student.
Notice of Recommended Assignment
A Notice of Recommended Assignment (NORA) must be completed at the conclusion of each GIEP review and any time that a significant change has been made to the GIEP. (22 Pa. Code §16.61 (2))
If a student moves from one school district in the Commonwealth to another, the new district must implement the existing GIEP to the extent possible or must provide the services and programs specified in an interim GIEP agreed to by the parents until a new GIEP is developed and implemented. (22 Pa. Code § 16.31 (b))
Chapter 16 requires that the educational placement of gifted school-age exceptional students in Pennsylvania includes specially designed instruction that is individualized to include acceleration, enrichment or both as appropriate. (22 Pa. Code § 16.2 (d)(3), §16.41 (b)(3))
Districts may use administrative and instructional strategies and techniques in the provision of gifted education for gifted students which do not require, but which may include, the categorical grouping of students. The placements must:
• Enable the provision of appropriate specially designed instruction based on the student’s need and ability §16.41 (b)(1))
• Ensure that the student is able to benefit meaningfully from the rate, level, and manner of instruction §16.41 (b)(2))
• Provide opportunities to participate in acceleration or enrichment, or both, as appropriate for the student’s need. These opportunities must go beyond the program that the student would receive as a part of the general education. (22 Pa. Code §16.41 (b)(1),(2), and (3))
The school must comply with the written notice and consent requirements under 22 Pa. Code §16.61 and §16.62. Written notices are required 10 school days prior to:
• Conducting a gifted multidisciplinary evaluation or reevaluation (22 Pa. Code § 16.61 (a)(1))
• Initiating, changing or refusing to initiate or change identification, evaluation or placement (22 Pa. Code § 16.61 (a)(2))
• Making or refusing to make any significant changes in the GIEP (22 Pa. Code § 16.61 (a)(2))
Content of Notices must be:
• Written in language understandable to the general public
• Communicated orally in native language or directly so parents understand the content of the notices (22 Pa. Code §16.61 (c))
Written Parental Consent Must Be Obtained Prior to:
• Conducting an initial multidisciplinary evaluation (22 Pa. Code §16.62 (1))
• Placing a gifted student in a gifted program (22 Pa. Code §16.62 (2))
• Disclosing to unauthorized persons information identifiable to a gifted student (22 Pa. Code §16.62 (3))
• Placing a student in the recommended assignment (22 Pa. Code §16.62 (4))
The Gifted Multidisciplinary Evaluation must be completed within 45 school days after receiving parental permission for an initial evaluation or after notifying the parents of a reevaluation or after receiving an order of a court or hearing officer to conduct a multidisciplinary evaluation.
The Gifted Written Report must be written within 10 school days after the evaluation report is completed, and a copy of the Gifted Written Report must be given to parents within 5 school days after it is completed. (22 Pa. Code § 16.22 (j)(1)(2)(3))
The Invitation to the Gifted IEP meeting must be sent 10 calendar days before the Gifted IEP meeting. (22 Pa. Code §16.2 (d)(6))
A Notice of Recommended Assignment is presented to parents at the Gifted IEP meeting or by certified mail within 5 calendar days after the completion of the Gifted IEP meeting. (22 Pa. Code § 16.2 (f) and §16.62 (4))
The Gifted IEP must be completed within 30 calendar days after the Gifted Written Report is written. (22 Pa. Code § 16.2 (g)(1))
The Gifted IEP must be implemented no more than 10 school days after it is signed or the start of the following school year if the GIEP was developed fewer than 30 days prior to the last day of the school year. (22 Pa. Code §16.2 (g)(2))
Private School Placement
Parents may choose to have their gifted child educated at a private school completely at private expense. (22 Pa. Code §16.42 (a))
The parent may choose a home program for the gifted student. If a home program is chosen, Sections 1327 and 1327.1 of the School Code (24 P.S. §§13-1327 and 1327.1) govern the provisions of the gifted student’s education. (22 Pa. Code §16.42(b))
A child can be identified as both a child with a disability and mentally gifted. In such cases, the rights of the child and his or her parents are governed by the rules applicable to children with disabilities and their parents, as described above.
The public schools of Bucks County maintain records concerning all children enrolled in public school, including students with disabilities. Records containing personally identifiable information about or related to children with disabilities could include, but are not limited to, cumulative grade reports, discipline records, enrollment and attendance records, health records, individualized education programs, notices of recommended assignment, notices of intent to evaluate and reevaluate, comprehensive evaluation reports, other evaluation reports by public school staff and by outside evaluators, work samples, test data, data entered into the Penn Data system, correspondence between school staff and home, instructional support team documents, referral data, memoranda, and other education-related documents. Records can be maintained on paper, on microfiche, on audio or videotape, and electronically. Records can be located in the central administrative offices of the public school, the administrative offices of the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, the school building or building at which the student attended or attends school, private schools and facilities at which the public school has placed the child for educational purposes, central storage facilities and electronic storage systems, and in the secure possession of teachers, building administrators, specialists, psychologists, counselors, and other school staff with a legitimate educational interest in the information contained therein. All records are maintained in the strictest confidentiality.
Records are maintained as long as they remain educationally relevant. The purposes of collecting and maintaining records are (1) to ensure that the child receives programs and services consistent with his or her IEP; (2) to monitor the ongoing effectiveness of programming for the child; (3) to document for the public school and the parents that the student is making meaningful progress; (4) to satisfy the requirements of state and federal agencies who have an interest in inspecting or reviewing documents concerning particular students or groups of students for purposes of compliance monitoring, complaint investigation, and fiscal and program audits; and (5) to inform future programming for and evaluations of the child. When educational records, other than those which must be maintained, are no longer educationally relevant, the public school must so notify the parents in writing and may destroy the records or, at the request of the parents, must destroy them. Public schools are not required to destroy records that are no longer educationally relevant unless the parents so request in writing.
Parent consent. Parent consent is required in writing prior to the release of any personally identifiable information concerning a child with disabilities. Parent consent is not required, however, prior to the release of information (1) to a hearing officer in a special education due process hearing; (2) to public school staff and contractors with a legitimate educational interest in the information; (3) to officials or staff of other schools and school systems at which the student is enrolled or intends to enroll; (4) to federal or state education officials and agencies and to the Comptroller of the United States; (5) to accrediting organizations to carry out their accrediting functions; (6) to comply with a lawful subpoena or judicial order; (7) in conjunction with a health or safety emergency to the extent necessary to protect the health and safety of the child or others; or (8) that the public schools have designated as “directory information.” Disclosure without consent of the parent is subject to certain conditions more fully described in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, 20 U.S.C § 1332g, and its implementing regulation, 34 C.F.R. Part 99.
Parent access. Upon submitting a request to do so in writing, parents have the right to access the educational records of their child within forty-five days or before any due process hearing or IEP team meeting, whichever is sooner. Access entitles the parent to the following: (1) an explanation and interpretation of the records by public school personnel; (2) copies of the records if providing copies is the only means by which the parent can effectively exercise his or her right of inspection and review; and (3) inspection and review of the records by a representative of the parent’s choosing upon presentation to the records custodian of a written authorization from the parent. The public school may charge a fee not to exceed its actual costs for copying records.
“Directory information.” Public school entities designate certain kinds of information as “directory information.” The public schools of Bucks County typically designate the following as “directory information”: (1) the name, address, telephone number, and photographs of the child; (2) the date and place of birth of the child; (3) participation in school clubs and extracurricular activities; (4) weight and height of members of athletic teams; (5) dates of attendance; (6) diplomas and awards received; (7) the most recent previous institution or school attended by the child; and (8) names of parents, siblings, and other family members. The District will provide this information to any interested person, including armed forces recruiters who request it, without seeking consent from the parents of the student or the student. Parents who do not want the District to disclose such information must so notify the District in writing on or before the first day of the school term. Written notice must identify the specific types of directory information that the parent does not want the District to disclose without consent. If the parent fails to notify the District in writing by the first day of the school term, the District may release directory information upon request and without consent.
Disclosure of records containing personally identifiable information to other schools and institutions. Public school entities disclose personally identifiable information concerning students to educational agencies or institutions at which the student seeks to enroll, intends to enroll, or is enrolled, or from which the student receives services, when that agency or institution requests such records.
Access to records by school officials with a “legitimate educational interest.” School officials with a legitimate educational interest in the personally-identifiable information contained in education records can have access to personally identifiable information without parent or student consent. Each school entity designates in its education records policy those persons who have a “legitimate educational interest” that would allow such access to education records. Such persons typically include teachers of the child, building administrators, guidance counselors to whom the child is assigned, members of instructional support and multidisciplinary teams in the course of screening and evaluation activities, records custodians and clerks, public school administrators with responsibility for programs in which the student is enrolled or intends to be enrolled, school board members sitting in executive session in consideration of matters concerning the child upon which only the school board can act, program specialists and instructional aides working with the child, therapeutic staff working with the child, and substitutes for any of the foregoing persons
Amendment of education records. After reviewing records, a parent or a student who has attained the age of 18 can request that records be amended. The school will make the requested changes or reject the request within forty-five days of the receipt of the request in writing. If the school rejects the request, the parent or student may request an informal hearing. The hearing can be held before any public school official who does not have a direct interest in its outcome. If the parents are dissatisfied with the outcome of the informal hearing, they may submit to the public school a statement outlining their disagreement with the record. The school thereafter must attach a copy of that statement to all copies of the record disclosed to third parties.
Complaints to the United States Department of Education. Complaints concerning alleged failure of a public school entity to comply with the requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act may be addressed to the United States Department of Education as follows:
Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20202-4605
This notice is only a summary of the special education services, evaluation and screening activities, and rights and protections pertaining to children with disabilities, children thought to be disabled, and their parents. For more information or to request evaluation or screening of a public or private school child contact the responsible Bucks County School entity listed below. For preschool age children, information, screenings and evaluations requested, may be obtained by contacting the Bucks County Intermediate Unit. The addresses of these schools are as follows:
Bucks County Intermediate Unit
Early Intervention Services
705 Shady Retreat Road
Doylestown, Pennsylvania 18901-2501
(215) 348-2940 or 1-800-770-4822